Friday, December 16, 2011
Over 44 million Americans (21% of our adult population) provide unpaid support and care to elderly or disabled loved ones. Of these 44 million caregivers, 13% are 65 or older. Caregiving can range from checking in on a loved one periodically, to assisting a loved one with everyday activities.
Caregivers face more issues the more detailed the care becomes, and many caregivers adjust their work time to find the time needed to assist the loved one. Additionally, many caregivers witness financial and mental stress as a result of their caregiving. Caregiver stress can result from feelings of frustration, anger, loneliness, and even guilt. The exhaustive nature of caregiving can also cause a caregiver to experience health issues, including anxiety, depression, body pains, and obesity.
Pre-planning is one way caregivers can mitigate these issues. When pre-planning is not an option, however, caregivers must stay mindful of their own well-being and health. Signs of caregiver stress include feeling overwhelmed, sleeping to much or too little, gaining or losing weight, exhaustion, depression, becoming easily frustrated or angered, constantly worrying, loss of interest in activities that used to be enjoyable, and abuse of alcohol or drugs.
Support groups for caregivers can provide advice and a sympathetic ear to worn-down caregivers. Many assisted living facilities also offer caregivers help by providing transportation, meal delivery, home modification, home-health assistance, and legal and financial counseling. Caregiver stress should not be ignored, and it is important for the caregiver to take steps to lessen his or her stress and to stay cognizant of his or her own health and well-being.
See Wesley Wright and Molly Dear Abshire, Caregiver Stress is Not to be Ignored, the Houston Chronicle, Nov. 16, 2011.